On Tuesday, 8 December in Belgium, where the euthanasia of an elderly woman on the grounds of depression created a scandal, sixty-five psychologists, psychiatrists and university professors published a carte blanche in the De Morgen newspaper in which they denounced the trivialisation of euthanasia for mental suffering. Although they are not opposed to euthanasia per se, they nevertheless state that it is not the right solution in cases of psychological distress. They believe that a distinction should be made between “a somatic disorder, i.e. a disease affecting the body, and a psychological disorder or disease affecting the mind”.
Euthanasia due to intolerable mental suffering currently accounts for between 2% and 3% of the 2,000 euthanasias practised every year in Belgium, i.e. one a day.
For Ariane Bazan, Head of Department, Faculty of Psychology, Brussels Free University, all of a psychiatrist’s work is called into question when it comes to euthanasia for incurable mental suffering. She raises the question of commitment vis-à-vis patients who know that they have an alternative, i.e. euthanasia. She is calling for “a change in the law as a result of which it would be legally impossible at this particular moment in time to consider euthanasia purely for psychological conditions in certain cases”.